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Superintendents perplexed over potential new Tennessee policies


TEACHING FOR GRADES – Bethany Enochs, third grade teacher at East Elementary, is just one of the many teachers in the Humboldt City School system who will be affected by the new letter grade system coming out in November. Superintendents have been attending town halls since August to discuss their desire for growth to be held in higher regards toward the letter grade given to school systems as opposed to achievement.

by ARIEL McRAE | Associate Editor

All across the state of Tennessee, Superintendents and other school personnel are attending town hall meetings to discuss the newly proposed rules for giving letter grades (A, B, C, D, F) to school systems. Not everyone is on board with the potential updates to the policies.

Letter grades for schools were established in 2016 and were designed to provide a glimpse for parents and guardians into how the school has performed during the previous academic year. The idea is that the results can be compared over time to see how much the school system is hopefully improving. The Tennessee Department of Education determines the grades for each school by looking at several different data points.

According to information compiled by Humboldt City Schools superintendent, Dr. Janice Epperson, originally, for kindergarten through eighth grade, the percentages were broken down by achievement at 45-percent, growth at 35-percent, 10-percent for chronic absenteeism and 10-percent for ELPA, which is for English language learners. For ninth through twelfth grade, the pie chart was divvied up by 30-percent for achievement, 25-percent for growth, 20-percent for ready graduates, 10-percent for chronic absenteeism, 10-percent for ELPA and 5-percent for graduation rate.

However, after a delayed rollout of letter grades during the time of covid, the commissioner for the state of Tennessee now is tasked with changing what data is used to determine a school’s letter grade. Town hall meetings have been held since the beginning of August for the public to attend, especially educators. These meetings are for those with the power to write policies to hear how proposed changes might affect a school in a negative light.

For Humboldt students, Dr. Epperson has indicated her disdain for the potential new direction these policies intend to take. Per her thoughts, it will not allow for the state to factor in the growth of a student’s success. In her opinion, the students of Humboldt have had amazing growth, especially over the past school year. She is positive that growth should still be held in high regards towards the letter grades, potentially even higher than the percentage it originally held.

“Growth is what we live by in rural towns,” Dr. Epperson explained.

Humboldt City Schools is a school system that functions on growth over achievement. Growth is categorized as improvement from one letter grade to another. While achievement, on the other hand, measures success on tests and grades. Ensuring that growth is appropriately measured will make the difference in the letter grade given to the school, as growth is where Humboldt thrives.

Regardless of the grade given to the school system this November, Dr. Epperson is adamant that the public knows she is dedicated to ensuring more growth within the schools system. It is clear that the students of Humboldt are in capable, caring hands.

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